Penn Hills rugby club working on building program

Sunday, May 8, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Eventually, Matthew Rosemeyer hopes the Penn Hills Big Red rugby club will be able to play a full schedule. However, the team is still working on building its program from the ground up.

Issues with low numbers have limited the Big Red to playing a schedule mostly comprised of rugby 7s.

“We’re struggling with numbers,” Rosemeyer said. “We’ve played mostly friendlies. Counting those, we’ve been able to play three games a week.”

Retention was always going to be an issue for Penn Hills due to the number of players needed to fill out a 15-man lineup. The Big Red only had one player, Charlie Joe Rosemeyer, who was returning from last year’s team.

Penn Hills has compiled a record of 18-5 in Rugby 7s play. Sevens is a scaled-down version of rugby that is along the lines of what 7-on-7 competitions are for football. Fewer players are required to play it, but there isn’t a league to compete in.

Penn Hills was hoping to play a full regular-season schedule in the Allegheny Conference. The Big Red would have been in a league with Moon, West Allegheny, Indiana and Central Catholic. All of the schools play a six-week schedule before the playoffs start.

The Allegheny Conference is the only rugby conference in Division II, which is in the western part of the state. Penn Hills just doesn’t have the numbers.

“We’ve had a few issues with other practices and activities interfering with rugby,” Rosemeyer said.

Rugby, which is a club sport not sanctioned by the PIAA, has a championship every year through an organization called RugbyPa. This year’s Division II tournament features eight teams, with Indiana and West Allegheny having qualified for the competition. Division I in Pennsylvania rugby features nine schools that play at an advanced level.

All of the teams, Penn Hills included, feature a group of players who are passionate about learning the sport.

“I think the players are guys who love the game and are willing to work in practice to get better,” Rosemeyer said. “For the most part, this season has been a great experience and I would expect to see most of the guys back for next season.”

What Rosemeyer believes is a big selling point for the program is the ability to play right away. Because of the large number of players required to play, and the physical nature of the sport, a lot of different student-athletes are able to carve out different roles in every game they play.

“I’m able to get everyone out on the field as much as they would want to play,” Rosemeyer said. “They don’t put in all the work and it’s just theory and training. They are able to put it into action. You don’t have to be a star to get in and play.”

Penn Hills is hoping to be able to retain most of its roster from this season.

With word of mouth and providing another opportunity for kids to learn a sport, the Big Red are hoping to be able to play a full league schedule next year.


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